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Medical Students Often Track Progress of Former Patients

The practice is common and raises privacy issues, but overall is beneficial, researchers say

TUESDAY, July 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Many U.S. medical students use electronic health records to track the progress of their former patients and confirm the accuracy of their diagnoses, according to research letter published online July 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Gregory Brisson, M.D., and Patrick Tyler, M.D., of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, surveyed 103 fourth-year medical students who were training at an academic health center in 2013.

Most — 96.1 percent — admitted they used patients’ e-records to follow up on cases. Most times, the students used the e-records to confirm diagnoses and follow up on their patients’ treatment success. When the students were asked if they had any ethical reservations about accessing the records of patients who were no longer under their care, only 17.2 percent of the participants voiced such concerns.

In their interviews with patients, most were fine with the e-record follow-up, Brisson told HealthDay. “They felt that follow-up encourages students to think of the whole patient and not just the disease, which might make students more caring doctors,” he said. “However, they also felt that patients should be aware of this practice and have the option to refuse.”

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